Snap teased an audience extension product called Snapchat Audience Network in early April, but the offering is still being baked and the beta likely won’t open until some point this summer.
So, advertisers have to wait to find out how targeting will work outside of the Snapchat platform, what data will be available and what sort of brand safety controls they’ll have.
Those questions are still being hashed out by Snap executives and Snapchat ad engineers around a conference room table somewhere in Los Angeles.
Right now, onboarding developers is a top priority and fair enough. You can't have a proper audience network without scaled supply. But Snap execs would do well to also keep their ears to the ground at the media agencies, because buyers have a little advice – and there’s a theme.
“We’d like transparency,” said Kieley Taylor, managing partner and global head of social at GroupM.
“First and foremost, it has to be extremely transparent,” said Jordan Jacobson, VP and head of social media at iProspect.
“We need transparent insights,” said Carly Carson, director of social at PMG.
AKA, learn from the blunders of others, particularly Facebook.
Make it clear
Ad buyers have long been frustrated by the lack of transparency that audience networks provide, with Facebook’s offering as the (not-so) shining prime example. There was a time when GroupM even advised its agencies and clients to steer clear of buying through Facebook Audience Network at all, because Facebook wouldn’t tell advertisers exactly where their ads were running.
Snapchat can differentiate its audience network product by providing transparency into ad buys from the start.
“It’s taken Facebook something like three years to get to the point where they are now – and they’re still not perfect,” Jacobson said. “If Snap provides us with real transparency out of the gate, it’ll be much easier for us to sell our clients on their audience network when it’s ready.”
Granular measurement would also be great, Taylor said. In their early stages, most audience networks share delivery numbers in aggregate across all prospective partners, which makes it hard to get a sense of which publishers are performing the best.
“When we can see inventory on a domain, app or page basis,” she said, “it gives us more assurance that the audience makes sense from a contextual standpoint.”
Third-party viewability measurement for ads served outside the network also wouldn’t go amiss, Carson said. Facebook, for example, has started working with third-party verification vendors, but those partnerships are more focused on placements like in-stream video, rather than the Audience Network.
“How many ads are truly being seen off of the platform?” Carson said. “This is something we're interested in seeing every player step up to provide.”
On the fraud front, Snap is planning to implement third-party fraud detection when its audience network launches.
But ad buyers want more than just transparency – they want control over their buys, particularly off platform. Because reach is great, but there’s nothing like robust brand safety levers to make a media buyer smile.
The ability to whitelist and blacklist specific app publishers and to prioritize certain inventory through the Snapchat Audience Network on Day One “would be really compelling, and something you can’t quite get with the Facebook Audience Network,” Carson said.
“If there’s a news event or something trending that’s not brand safe, I want category and contextual-level brand safety controls in order to create blacklists,” she said.
Snap has a good chance to get this right, though. After meeting with her contacts at Snap last week, Taylor, a brand safety warrior – “I mean, I work at GroupM,” she joked – said she feels fairly confident that she’ll get what she needs.
Snapchat performs a human review for every developer that wants access to Snap Kit, the tool that lets devs integrate Snapchat features in their apps. The same process will apply when Snapchat’s Ad Kit hits the scene.
“That’s not to say you can’t still run into a PewDiePie issue, where the majority of the content is fine, but there still might be something extremely off putting,” Taylor said. “But it does give me confidence.”
Buyers also want the ability to adjust their pricing so they can bid separately for audience network inventory versus Snapchat inventory, said Aaron Goldman, CMO of 4C, a Snapchat licensed ads partner.
“It’s important to have the flexibility to bid what your perceived value is and not be locked into any one rate,” he said. “Buyers are going to want that control.”
But why not even go a bit further and make the Snapchat Audience Network a stand-alone product, rather than just an audience extension tool, Jacobson said.
“That could help attract advertisers that don’t consider Snapchat today but do want to work with a quality programmatic mobile media network,” he said. “Snapchat has the creative tools and the data to build something interesting here.”
Targeting non-Snapchat users?
Speaking of the data, it’s unclear exactly what sort of targeting parameters Snapchat, which has attempted to position itself as more privacy aware than its compatriots, will enable through its audience network or whether advertisers will be able to reach non-Snapchat users.
“I’m not sure even Snap knows the answer to this yet,” Jacobson said. “But the only way their audience network is going to be successful is if they do target non-Snapchat users.”
To do so, it’s possible Snap will have to buy itself a little ad tech, a la Twitter’s acquisition of MoPub back in the day, he said. Or maybe Snap will form a strategic partnership to bolster its forthcoming audience network with third-party data.
Snapchat does have solid first-party mobile data assets of its own, said Karl Stillner, CEO and co-founder of PushSpring, one of Snap’s audience match partners.
And so there’s an opportunity to “offer novel ways of augmenting this rich first-party data with quality third-party data sources to bring advertisers a set of solutions they can’t find on other social platforms,” Stillner said.
“Snap,” he said, “can fill any audience scale issues across its network by allowing advertisers access to third-party data – not easily usable on Facebook – combined with the larger scale of its audience network.”
Snap declined to comment for this story.